Renfield, starring Nicholas Hoult as the infamous lackey of Count Dracula (brilliantly played by Nicolas Cage) finally hits theaters this weekend. We were fortunate enough to visit the film’s set a few months ago. Shortly after, we recorded some very extensive interviews with Cage and director Chris McKay. Awkwafina also sat down with us, as she co-stars as a cop in the film that Renfield falls for. While she’s got lots of experience in big-budget action, having co-starred in Shang-Chi, here she’s at the center of much of the action, which brings with it certain challenges, she discusses here. She also tells us about some of her recent favorite genre movies and even gets her mind blown when we reveal one of her idols, Tom Waits, played Renfield in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
I got lucky enough to see I got to see filming happen. I didn’t see him personally, but I did see him through a wall. What was your initial reaction when you first saw Nicolas Cage dressed as Dracula in full regalia?
Oh man. When he walks into the room, there’s a kind of silence, I think. It’s still Nic underneath. It made a big impact. I think it was a big impression to see it personally. I think that when you meet with Chris during the preparation phase, you see, like, sketches of it, ideas, or references on the walls. It really does when you see it. It’s scary. What are some scenes you were shocked that they got away? You can be as vague or as specific as you like. Well, I believe there is a big introduction when Rebecca and Renfield first meet and the fight scene was filmed in a real restaurant. When I returned to New Orleans a month later to film, that was the scene. I was like I can’t eat there. What were we doing up there? Like, I don’t know, but, yeah, that was a very, intense scene. It’s more of a scene that we started with. It was my first big production battle, and it was awesome. It was the first time I had ever worked with I forgot the term. Oh, my god. Like practical effects. It’s amazing because you feel like you are in the ride. You’re at Universal. You’re on a roller coaster. All these things are happening right next to you. That was crazy. The synchronicity between the crew, the stunt team and the effects team as well as the camera. It was a very ambitious, insane project. Everything was done in a single shot. But, yeah, I feel like it’s going to look so cool
How were the action scenes and the stunt scenes in this? When I was on set, I watched Nic run through things that were on fire. They choreographed it, and the set was absolutely beautiful. I was curious about how you filmed some of these shots because I believe we see the scene in the trailer where there is like, mass murder with dinner plates. How did you find it to film? Did you do any stunt work yourself? I have. For me personally, these were the most intense scenes I’ve ever shot. I’m from the Marvel universe, right, and there’s obviously a lot of excitement in that. But this was different. Like I said, in the restaurant there was a time when all the squibs went off and everything was timed. You guys should be careful when you lead this poll because it’s rigged. You won’t know what will happen until everything goes off. You feel like you are making movies the way they used to, like the original Draculas. They were real effects and you have a mixture of both. I thought it was a really cool combination of both, which I hadn’t seen in a while. It was also very ambitious, and I don’t remember if I was present when Nic ran through the fire, but I’m sure that didn’t surprise me. I can imagine that he would have to run through the fire. I was watching, and thought, Oh, he has the floppy-hair, that’s… That’s getting close to that fire there. We also trust in you. As an actor, this is a great compliment. We both went in with this attitude. I think Nick would at least hope that I was called a good sportsman, but I am sure that we both did. We want to do cool stuff that you feel that we’re capable of doing.Because when we were there, we got to eat bugs with him. Did you eat one or did I not eat the real ones? I ate fake bugs that looked very real.
But, you ate our gummy insects. You’re saying that you came to visit us and ate our gummy insects. Okay. Okay, I’m sure I did. What is it? It was cool how they made it. When you look at it closely, it looks like real bugs. Then they say, “Oh, that dirt.” It’s graham. You like it as is? That’s so delicious. When I was a child, I ate one of those lollipops with a bug in it at the Hall of Science. I wonder, however, if Nick has eaten real bugs, since I’ve never done so. They had real bugs, and one of our friends ate one.
She said, These are my personal bug
Sounds more delicious.
Yeah, you would hope. I watched her face and she regretted her decision almost instantly. She realized that she would need pliers to remove the object from her teeth.
Oh man. It’s possible that I would have done the same thing if I had known. As an actress and writer creator, I was curious to know what you thought about the horror genre, and how women have really risen to the top in it over the past 10,20 years. You’ve had Mia Goth coming out and being everywhere. Jamie Lee Curtis proving that women of all ages can kick ass. I’m curious to know what you think about that. You’re a well-known person in the horror genre, but I love horror movies. I have trouble paying attention at times, which is a terrible thing to say. As someone in this field, I’m fascinated by horror. I think it’s an underrated genre. It can do so much that other genres cannot. It can combine aspects of drama, comedy, and romance. Horror is a genre that can encompass a wide range of different things. And some of my favorite movies of recent are like
. I totally agree that women are taking back the genre. It was my first horror film. It was so much fun. There were moments when I knew exactly what the line was. I know the line when I am in the audience and it is being delivered. It’s a mystery. Adrian plays Chris in the film. It felt like I was doing an investigation. In that sense, I thought it was really cool to do horror. As an actress, it’s a lot of fun to do horror. It’s definitely dark. The material that you are working with is dark. You go home with a bit of a gloomy feeling. But I think it’s also because of that that it makes a transcendental feeling. But I love horror. I’m going think about what you said in regards to women and the changes that have taken place over the last 10 to 20 years. That’s like a really cool observation.
One thing I was curious about, too, because I’d seen that you loved Tom Waits and that he was one of your inspirations growing up. I was curious if you’ve ever seen him in Francis Ford Coppola Dracula. And what were your thoughts on that?
No, I didn’t see that.
Oh, you need to see that he plays Renfield.
Wow. What? Okay. Yes. I should have known I was looking crazy. It’s amazing. Wow. Wow. That’s awesome. I love him as an actress, so that’s incredible. Put it on your list. It was Nick Cage’s Uncle who made it. Yeah. Right. Okay. Sorry. Right, okay. Yes, it makes sense. Wow, that is very cool. Blown my brain at every corner.
Well my last question is for you because I know I am about to lose you. But I wanted to ask about because you have done a lot Sci-Fi, this is your first Horror film, but it’s not the first time you’ve done Fantasy and Sci-Fi in your animation work. I was curious to know your thoughts on how you use genres such as these to bring up issues and ideas people may not be aware of. We’ve already covered this a bit in the context of Dracula’s toxic relationship with Renfield. Can you comment on that? Because Shang Chi broke a lot boundaries and barriers, it opened up a lot more eyes for fans who may not have considered that culture or Asian Americans. I was curious to know what you thought about using these genres to let people see. I believe that every good story will have a universal message. It could be political or it could be about representation. It could be something to do with human nature. I think that horror is a genre that explores this a lot. Renfield is a great example of this. I love what it says about justice, about toxic relationships, and about complicated people. I think that these things, like these kinds of representations or stories, are told sometimes accidentally, just by casting the right actors in a certain place, based on who they are. I think these things are told. In Shang Chi, I think that the fact we were all Asian tells its own story. I think a good story is one that considers these things, how it tells the story, and how they fit in the larger piece. I also think horror is a great genre to use for this, as it shows us a nightmare version of who we are. This is a great question. I’m going think about what you said today. Thank you.